John Burke’s Recollections, Co. Dublin, 1803

John Burke’s Recollections:
Dublin Historical Record,
Vol IV, No. 4. pp. 150-153. 1944

Some extracts from this article:

John Burke, second son of Mr. William Burke of Chamber St. in the Earl of Meath’s Liberty, Dublin – Woollen Manufacturer.

John Burke was born 17 Nov. 1796; now in his eighty-second year of age, thank God, with memory unimpaired, health the same, writes at the particular request of a friend the following true recollections of his so far:

“I John Burke can well remember the Saturday night in the year 1803 when Lord Kilwarden was piked in Thomas St. by a band of wild enthusiastic fools who rushed out of Robert Emmet’s depot in Marshalsea Lane off Thomas St., and R. Emmet was said to have been with them. Lord Kilwarden was brought into the watchhouse, Vicar St., where he died. J.B. says it was a cruel act.


I well remember to have seen Robert Emmet hanged and beheaded in Thomas St. – I believe on a Saturday in July 1803 in Thomas St. opposite St. Catherine’s Church and fully remember Martial Law proclaimed said year in Dublin. The Yeomen, the Liberty Rangers, had their Barracks on the Coombe, the Weavers’ Hall, where the Statue of George the II is still outside over the entrance. There were gates placed across from Hanover St. at one end and gates similarly placed across from Francis St. at the other end – so that the Rangers could not be surprised by any sudden “Coup”.


I should tell that at the time Emmet was executed there was the Cornmarket Bridge, in Thomas St. which ran down from the corner of St. to the corner of New Row, and in the Emmet day part of this was a Barrack.


I well remember the remains of the Old Custom House at Essex Bridge, ’twas then occupied as a Barracks. There was no passage then down the present Wellington Quay. Passengers had to pass down Essex St., go on to part of Temple Bar and come out, I believe, by the Bagnio Slip to get on the Quay.

I well remember the place called “Hell” at the top of Winetavern St., where a long dark arched passage led you into a very pretty open space where abundance of Toys were sold. In the archway was a large black oak Statue which the “Boys” used to call the “Devil”. There is at present some old citizen who, J.B. has been told, got a snuff box made of a part of said Black Oak in which he has these words:

“Prime your nose well;
I’d have you be civil.
This Box was in ‘Hell’,
And made of the ‘Devil’.”

I remember to have been in Astley’s Theatre, Peter St., where now stands the Molyneux Asylum. <snip>

The first Balloon which was said to have been sent up for 50 years previous, was sent up from Belvedere Lawn at Drumcondra, the 1st. of Oct., 1811; ’twas a clear beautiful day when the old Mr. Sadlier ascended from the Lawn. He veered his course over the Irish Channel with the view of landing at Holyhead or some other point. I recollect – so clear and beautiful was the sky – you could see the Balloon until it appeared only the size of a small round circular globe; the wind having changed the Balloon was driven back and Sadlier fell in the sea and was taken up by some fishermen who were on the look out for him – quite safe.

I saw Watty Cox pilloried at the Pillory at the Royal Exchange for having written in his Magazine a seditious libel called the Painter Cut. That was the year 1812 or 13.

I have a perfect recollection of Drumgoole’s Tavern in Lamb Alley in Cornmarket, where the famous Irish Piper Geoghegan used to play. I often went to hear him with my father. It was most respectably attended by the Mercantile Class of the time, as well as high-ups from other parts of the City. I would say I was there in 1807, and it was in existence long before that.


The Liberty was the seat of manufacturers of Woollen, Silk, Cotton checks, Corduroys, Calicoes, and various other trades. Cork St. and Mill St. were mostly occupied, 1812, by Tanners and Spanish leather dressers, in fact it was crowded with foundries [sic] – Smiths, Carpenters, Masons, Artisans of all kinds, with many Block printing works where Ginghams, Muslins, and Calicoes were printed off with various designs for Houses where such was sold. The clothing for the Army and Yeomen and the old Watchmen were mostly furnished and their clothes made by the Army Clothiers of the Liberty. The extensive Army Clothier Charles Haskins of Summer St. (now Caffrey’s Brewery) – the Lamberts, the Beasleys, and numbers of others were all suppliers for the Army. The militia during the French war were then in existence and clothed. Such was the great employment of thousands of persons in Woollen, Silk, Cotton, and other branches of trade that the population was immense – wages well paid, and no person might want that was industrious. The climate of this period was very different from our present wet and uncertain weather. I remember that in November then, snow and frost set in and scarcely disappeared before April. Owing to this frosty weather the workmen, weavers and cloth dressers of the woollen trade were often thrown out of employment for weeks in consequence of not being able to get the weavers’ woollen warps dried, neither could the shearmen get their cloths dried on the tenters on account of the frosty weather. A great benevolent philanthropic gentleman named Pleasants, seeing the distress caused by a want of drying weather, took the plot of ground up in Brickfield Lane (now the late Fr. Spratt’s Refuge) and there, in the year of the great fall of snow and frost, 1814, built the famous Stovetenters House at his sole individual cost, which enabled the weavers to dry their warps and the shearmen to dry their cloths. From that grand act of Mr. Pleasants hundreds of persons were again set to work. I will here note that this same Mr. Pleasants was the person who founded the Pleasants School in Camden St. Singular as may appear, this same year, 1814, John Claudius Beresford of the Riding School notoriety was Lord Mayor of Dublin, and escorted by the City of Dublin Militia Band playing the music of the Liberty Boys with the people carrying a gilt lamb, he had it placed in the niche over the centre door of the Stovetenter [House] – so much for Beresford.

In the year 1815 the Big Sweep was flogged from New Gate to the Royal Exchange for having put fire in a grate under one of his climbing boys to force him up the chimney to sweep it. The pressure of the crowd on the Exchange against the Rails, forced it to give way, it fell out, some persons were killed and several wounded. The writer was on the outside of the rails when the Sweep was coming up Parliament St. He fortunately jumped down and went up on the steps which saved him from consequence; the Exchange rails at that time came a great way forward from its present position – this was in 1815. ‘Twas supposed Watty Cox’s pillory was the cause that shook the railing.


Coming now to the time of a whispered wish of George IV to visit Ireland in the year 1820 – I can relate the correct circumstance of that whispered desire. My father who at that time lived in Chamber St. in the Liberty of Dublin – a woollen manufacturer – was a person highly respected and possessed of immense influence among the great population of that manufacturing locality. It can be said to be the part of Dublin at that time to command the popular expression. I can well remember a letter being brought on a Saturday night in December, 1820 to my father. That letter came from a high up gentleman who was much attached to my father on account of his general correctness and information on many important affairs. That letter was brought by a special servant from Mr. T. Nolan from the house of Harty’s in Westmoreland St. at that time. This letter to my father was worded to this effect:

“My dear Billy,
Go you and get an early Mass tomorow Sunday morning – I ‘will go also to Trinity college Church to get service – come down to Westmoreland St. soon after breakfast as you can for I want to see you particularly on most important business.

My father handed me that letter to read, saying to me, “If you are not too lazy to get up in the morning and go to Mass and come with me, you who so well know who Mr. Nolan is and with whom you were once on a visit for seven months when a boy in 1813-14.” I was delighted to have the opportunity to go with my father and was in Westmoreland St. before 10 o’clock. We were ushered into the Drawing room. Soon after, Mr. Nolan came in – after the usual kindly welcome he sat down and produced a letter which he had received from Sir Benjamin Broomfield, the private Sec. to George IV and the intimate friend of Mr. Nolan. The purport of that letter was to this effect – The Queen’s trial, brought by George IV and his then Government to accuse his Queen of immorality and get a divorce, having completely failed, and public opinion, particularly in England, having set in against the King – in order to allay it, the letter of Sir B. Broomfield was to stir up Irish feeling to invite the King to come pay his Irish people a visit. Mr. Nolan knew well my father’s popularity and influence in the Liberty and if they could be set in motion to agitate the question “’twas sure to be accomplished”. About 12 o’clock on that same Sunday a few more friends arrived, and the subject was discussed. The result was, a meeting of those few bringing with them a few other friends took place in the same week at Morrisson’s Hotel in Dawson St., from which a resolution was sent to  the then Evening Post stating a few friends had met there whose patriotic desire was to invite the King to visit Ireland. ”

Thousands of signatures were obtained and this was forwarded to His Majesty and he came in August 1821.

“The occasion of the visit needs no language to speak of it. It was one of the most magnificent displays ever seen. On his entry from the Vice Regal Lodge in the Phoenix Park along the North Circular Rd. into Dublin through Sackville St. to the Castle. The day was beautifully fine. Sir Abraham Bradley King the Lord Mayor under the Triumphal Arch at the top of Sackville St. presenting the Keys of the City to his Majesty was a gem.”